What if you could allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling, even if it is negative? Rather than trying to control your emotions, what if you could accept them for what they are? That is the basis for ACT—Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This type of therapy encourages people to embrace their thoughts and feelings instead of fighting them or feeling guilty.
Running away or constantly trying to avoid a problem doesn’t solve anything. It only compounds the problem. The only real way to make positive changes is to first accept your feelings and experiences without judgment. Paired with mindfulness techniques, ACT can be an effective form of treatment for a variety of mental health conditions.
How does ACT work?
ACT is based on the concept that suffering is a natural and inevitable part of life. As people we have the instinct to want to control and avoid negative experiences, but that is not always the best path to follow. ACT is designed to enable clients to live a rich and meaningful life, despite the existence of pain and suffering. It draws on mindfulness skills to keep clients focused on the here and now rather than planning or catastrophizing the future.
This type of therapy draws on six core processes, as identified by the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. In layman’s terms they are:
1.) Acceptance — the process of acknowledging and accepting what you are feeling. Are you mad at the situation? Sad? Scared? Jealous? By actively acknowledging what you are feeling and allowing yourself to feel those feelings without trying to deny or change them, you are encouraging positive actions to take place in other areas of your life.
2.) Cognitive Defusion— The goal with ACT is to learn how to face negative experiences without fixating on them. In therapy, clients learn techniques to change how they react to negative thoughts and feelings. It is about letting go of the need to control. Trying to control emotions is the problem.
3.) Being Present — This is the mindfulness part of the process. The more you practice being aware of the present moment, without judgment, without trying to change or predict the future, the more acceptance you will gain. And, ultimately, the more at peace you will feel.
4.) Self as Context — A person is not the sum of their experiences, thoughts, or emotions. There is a self outside of current experience. We experience what happens to us but we are not what happens to us.
5.) Values — During ACT clients identify their internal values. What do we consciously or unconsciously hold dear? What drives us to act or react in the way we do? Clients will learn tools to live their lives following their values.
6.) Committed Action — The final step in ACT is helping clients to determine and commit to actions that will help them to meet long-term goals and live a life consistent with their personal values. To make positive behavior changes we must first be aware of why we feel driven to act in a certain way and how that behavior affects us.
It all comes down to understanding and allowing ourselves to truly feel instead of avoiding negative emotions.
What is ACT used to treat?
ACT has been proven effective in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, social anxiety, depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, workplace stress, and psychosis. It has also been used to treat chronic pain and substance abuse.
What are sessions like?
During your ACT session with a trained therapist, you can expect to identify your personal self-talk and really listen to what you are saying. Specifically, you and your therapist will look at your self-talk in regards to traumatic events, problematic relationships, physical limitations, etc. In working with your therapist you will identify where you can make changes and ultimately make a commitment to stop fighting past events and emotions.
The ultimate goal is to start practicing more confident and optimistic behavior, based on your own personal values.
To determine if ACT is the right treatment for you, contact us at Rooted & Rising at 412-228-8489.
Ready to begin counseling in PA?
The professionally trained and licensed counselors at Rooted & Rising Therapy in Bridgeville have openings. Our practice specializes in treating individuals through years of experience, we’re confident that no problem is too great to overcome. Through therapy, there is always a way to address the issues you face and learn coping strategies to help you both right now and in the future. Just call our office at (412) 228-8489 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started to feeling better today. We are here for you.